Updated: Aug 27
Hey everyone, it's Ryan King.
A conversation popped up today that I would love to discuss.
How many of us genuinely let our dogs "earn" their food?
Often, I hear people say that their dogs sit patiently and wait to be fed, but while it may seem like discipline, to me, that's not genuinely "working" for it.
Consider a dog in its natural habitat. Would it merely sit and wait for its meal? Not at all!
They would engage in hunting, chasing, tracking, and more before enjoying their meal. I'm not suggesting we make our pets go hunting, but the principle stands that we might be suppressing their innate instincts and work ethic.
Sure, obedience commands are beneficial, but let's not box ourselves in. We might be aiming for manners and discipline, but initially, this might be hindering more than helping.
There's a potential downside. When we aim to reward our dogs with a bowl of food, they might become apprehensive or undervalue the treat.
So, how about spicing up mealtime to make it both fun and rewarding?
Consider hunting (searching), scent games, agility drills, chasing, catching, and more...
Aligning their food rewards with activities that resonate with their natural instincts could be the way forward. I'm eager to hear your views!
How does your dog earn its meals?
And remember, merely having them sit and wait might not be the golden ticket.
"Let's instill the importance of effort in our dogs and make feeding times exhilarating."
Key points to consider:
The significance of this blog is to shed light on the significance of our little friends working for their food and to touch upon the essence of a dog's natural instincts and behaviours.
Keep these 5 principles in mind:
1. The Need for Mental Stimulation
Our beloved pets, particularly the working breeds, yearn for mental challenges. In the wild, dogs are engaged in a variety of tasks demanding strategic thinking and problem-solving skills, such as hunting, protecting their territory, and more. However, in domestic settings, these instincts often lie dormant due to the lack of needful stimulation. Hence why it's critical to satisfy their cognitive needs by providing them with mental exercises to keep them stimulated and active. Always remember, a mentally stimulated dog is a happy dog.
2. Training Beyond the Basics
Yes, the "sit and wait" command showcases a dog's discipline.
But does it engage their mind and body? I think not. Training beyond the basics isn't just about teaching your dog to follow a set of commands. It's about tapping into the essence of their instincts and offering them the chance to engage in activities that stimulate them mentally and physically. Sure, having your dog obey your "sit" or "stay" commands is impressive, and it does instill a level of discipline. However, it barely scratches the surface of their potential. Dogs, especially working breeds, are naturally intelligent creatures with a knack for problem-solving. They love the thrill of the chase, the satisfaction of finding a hidden object, and the sheer joy of being physically active. So, why limit them to basic obedience training?
3. Physical Exercise – The Fun Way
Many dog owners ingeniously integrate food into playtime. Incorporating physical exercise into a dog's routine shouldn't be a chore but a fun and bonding experience for both the pet and the owner. This integration of food and play not only satisfies their need for physical exercise but also engages their problem-solving skills and reinforces positive behaviours. Why not make meals an enjoyable experience that engages their body and mind?
4. Tapping into Natural Instincts
Our pets come from a lineage that had specific roles in the wild. So, why not introduce activities that resonate with their natural instincts? Scent work, for breeds with a keen sense of smell, or herding exercises for shepherd breeds, can be incredibly fulfilling.
These roles are deep-seated, and they don't just disappear because our dogs are now living comfortably in our homes. You might have noticed your retriever obsessively fetching the ball or your shepherd trying to herd the kids! Incorporating activities that align with these natural instincts can be incredibly satisfying and stimulating for them.
5. Balancing Trust and Work
Here's the tricky part. While making our dogs work for food can be rewarding, it's paramount to ensure they trust us. Every mealtime shouldn’t feel like an impending challenge for them.
Think about it this way - when we make an effort to learn a new task or skill, we do it because we find it stimulating, rewarding, or it contributes to our growth. Similarly, when we ask our dogs to work for their meals, it's not about making them "earn" their keep. Instead, it's about engaging them mentally and physically, stimulating their natural instincts, and making life more enjoyable for them.
So, let's not view this as an exchange. It's about creating mutual trust and respect. It's about acknowledging their efforts and rewarding them appropriately. It's about making their lives, and ours, more fulfilling. Isn't that what our relationship with our dogs is all about?
Remember that understanding your dog's breed, temperament, and unique needs is crucial. Each dog is an individual, with preferences and aversions. Always be observant of your dog's signals and body language. This ensures they're not just physically fed, but also mentally and emotionally nourished.
If you need a hand putting it all together, don't hesitate to book in a Fast-Track assessment to meet with a Certified Trainer and see how we can help. We're located at 57 Lyons Road, Holden Hill, SA.
Leaving some feedback, questions, or a rating would be very appreciated ⭐
Happy training and bonding!
Cheers, Ryan King.